Monday, November 23, 2015

Mixed Plate: Summer's Last Rites and Just Letting Life Happen

Er...mah....gurd. Yes, I'm alive. And yes, I realize it's been freakin' FOREVER since I posted. Well, almost two months. I took an unscheduled break from blogging because of work and a much-needed vacation. But I'm back! Well, at least for this post. I admit, it's been nice to just enjoy life, live in the moment, and not concern myself with photographing and taking notes on every. little. detail. So that's what this post is all about -- enjoying the moment, carpe diem-ing it, and remembering the sunny summer that was.

Summer's Last Supper, chevre-stuffed squash blossoms with pasta carbonara - Photo by Wasabi Prime

 I know. It's hard to imagine sunny days, warm weather, and temperatures worthy of us baring our pasty, sun-starved bare legs to. But we did have a memorable summer, despite the hotter-than-average days. And despite it being blog-worthy, Real Life and work just got in the way, so I opted to just savoring my precious free time, versus stressing over how it could be manipulated into a post. So I took a break. I fussed with the garden now and then. I went to fun food and wine events when I could, spent more quality time with friends, and as always, I ate well, whether I was the one cooking or not. Blogging notwithstanding, that's kind of what life is all about, right?

Gardening and farmers marketing. And Side-Eye Beeks looking on - Photos by Wasabi Prime
I grew a lot of yellow things. Not by choice, it just sort of happened that way. Little yellow cherry tomatoes, yellow summer squash. I did have some small red roma tomatoes and green zucchini, but those missed a photo opportunity. And it was a small garden. Literally. Everything was really tiny because the soil really needs amending (on to-do list for 2016 Garden), but I tried not to stress about it. As much Garden Envy as I had, looking at the bountiful harvests of others on Facebook and Instagram, I knew I wouldn't get that much stuff beyond these jaundiced produce and handfuls of kale now and then. So be it. It made it easier to impulse-buy things at the farmers market. Having a dog again to take to the Saturday market in Redmond was so nice. Even if it was a routine thing, even if we always got the same thing (coffee and crepes or tamales), it was a routine I dearly missed, and having Beeks gave us a reason to wake up early and get the day started.

Even if I didn't get a ton of summer squash, the plants blossomed like crazy, and yes, those blossoms are totally edible. I harvested many squash blossoms, which are good in salads, and like anything, stuffed with cheese and baked or fried till crispy. The light, floral flavor is good in light pasta dishes. Blossoms mixed with a lightly seasoned plate of noodles can be an elegant thing, or just go whole-hog like I did, fill some blossoms with chevre, cover with breadcrumbs and bake until gooey and lightly browned, and enjoy with a big ol' plate of pasta carbonara with wilted arugula. It ended up being an unexpected beautiful UnRecipe meal.

My weird garden obsession - TATERS - Photo by Wasabi Prime
You know what? POTATOES. One of the easiest, fuss-free things to grow that I only started growing this past year. You'd think I'd have jumped on this bandwagon sooner. Prompted by potatoes who were sprouting like gangbusters (typically organic ones, since they aren't sprayed with a sprout inhibitor), I cut away the sprouting eyes, did some Interweb-reading, and it confirmed what we all basically knew: stick 'em in the ground, stuff will grow. It was amazing. Although I admit to being easily amazed. I didn't follow the advice to mound dirt up around the plants to get a bigger yield -- I planted the scraps in fairly shallow beds, but I still got a few pounds' worth of potatoes for doing pretty minimal work and regular watering during the hot days. Not bad for making food from food scraps. I felt like GD Matt Damon in The Martian.

Blackberry haul means fresh berry ice cream - Photos by Wasabi Prime
Summer has a bounty of free food. Embrace Freeganism! Picking blackberries is so satisfying. It's like the reward you get for having to deal with the brambles all the rest of the year. We got rid of them in our yard, I'm not messing with that noise, but there's enough parks, trails and roadside bushes covered with berries that I was able to gather a few pounds in an evening. Summer's excessive heat made for smaller berries, and they weren't candy-sweet, but who cares when you're making jam out of it. I love blackberry freezer jam. It's just cooked down berries in sugar, a little salt to balance it out, and that's it. Or you can get fancy and add fresh herbs like thyme  or a little rosemary for an herbal hint, or fresh citrus for brightness. I kept our freezer jam simple because I knew most of it would go towards blackberry ice cream, my favorite homemade treat that really can be enjoyed year-round, since the jam can be used whenever you want. Having ice cream made with fresh fruit is like nothing else.

Pursued by Bear, poured by MacLachlan - Photo by a nice person using Sabrina's phone
Oh yeah, and THIS HAPPENED. The amazing actor and winery owner Kyle MacLachlan was pouring his wine, Pursued By Bear at this year's Picnic and Barrel Auction at Chateau Ste Michelle in Woodinville. It's one of the best outdoor summer food/wine parties, I had a blast at last year's auction, and this year was made especially awesome by this photo opportunity. Several tastes of liquid courage helped cross off this considerable item on my Bucket List. Thanks, Alcohol, couldn't have done it without you.

And that's how it went, O Summer of 2015. Snippets of moments here and there, no recipe to speak of, but mostly because I spent more time just letting life do its thing and going along for the ride. I'll try to post more regularly again, but if I disappear for a spell, don't worry, you know what's up.

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